Table 128 is an instant hit6/19/2013
There is no cursed address in the restaurant business. People suspected that about a spot on Ingersoll when three cafés came and went around the beginning of the 1980s. Then Wellman’s Pub took up that challenge and has remained a strong presence for 31 years. The trick is to fit the address with the right style of café. On early returns, Food Dude is projecting another such winner in the Clive district.
Lynn and Sarah Pritchard have been involved with three projects in the same venue since August 2011. Shane’s Rib Shack met the same fate as every barbecue not named Jethro’s in the western burbs. Tartine was a French bakery that depended upon breakfast business but without coffee drinks offered at neighboring Caribou. In both cases the Pritchards were pushing someone else’s concept. For their try, they confided in their own considerable restaurant skills. Sarah is an old-fashioned front room charmer who remembers customers and trains her multilingual waiters, some of the best in town, to do the same. Lynn is a top chef. They remodeled, most significantly by removing large, uncomfortable booths that were memorials of barbecue days. A 14-seat patio was added. Fresh flowers and signature sprigs of rosemary grace tables. A bakery case that greeted visitors upon entering has been converted into a full bar.
Those are keys to more positive changes in the menu and the business plan. Though weekend brunch remains, breakfast has been scrapped and dinner hours expanded. Wine offerings ($21-$67 by the bottle, $6 -$12 by the glass) have been increased and cocktails added. Several excellent craft beers are available for just $3. Their menu relies on craft and restraint. T128’s mussels dish was as good as any in town, steamed in fish fumet and served with a magnificent sauce of roasted tomato, white wine and anchovy butter, with toast points on the side. Frites were served with truffle oil and fresh rosemary. They have been dubbed “crack fries” by a neighbor’s business staff because of their addictive powers. Homemade potato chips came with a house-made onion-and-garlic dip. Flatbread resembled a margarita pizza with artichokes added. Cheese plates stuck to proven favorites.
Burgers and sandwiches ($9-$14 with a side) did not seem much changed from the excellent offerings of Tartine. Specialty salads ($9-$14) included: roasted beets and arugula with candied pecans and chevre; crab cakes with red quinoa, arugula and sweet corn; and pickled pears with cucumber, chevre and almonds. Each entrée ($15-$22) included soup, a house salad or a Caesar with blended kales.
A pan-roasted key lime chicken breast was well served on cous cous with caramelized onions and butter sauce. Flank steak was cut and plated with asparagus, sunckokes and red wine reduction. Pork loin was paired with mashed potatoes, balsamic reduction, a charred scallion and foie gras mousse. Mac and cheese used truffle oil and Mornay sauce that blistered beautifully in the middle. Duck breast was served with chevre, French toast and raspberry sauce. The superstar, though, was a grilled river trout, boned but otherwise whole, stuffed with rosemary sprigs and paired with roasted Marcona almonds, a potato pancake and divine saffron aioli. Nothing was overcooked, a rarity with most of these dishes. Free ranged, heirloom and farm-to-table offerings were common.
Desserts covered familiar bistro favorites like caramel chocolate tarts, panna cotta, coconut cake, and crème brulee.
Side Dishes Bobby Dean will come to the state fair promoting Kenmore’s centennial “Honored Harvest Time” recipe competition, with a $5,000 kitchen makeover among prizes. Fresh and local foods only. First 50 entries accepted by a July 1 deadline. Rules on page 46 – www.iowastatefair.org/upl/downloads/competition/premium-books/food-23.pdf. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.